May also be called: HSV2; HSV-2; Genital Herpes; Herpes
Herpes simplex 2 is a type of herpesvirus that usually causes outbreaks in the genital area.
There are several kinds of herpesviruses that can cause blisters and pain in various parts of the body. Usually, herpes simplex 2 (HSV2) causes lesions in the genital area, resulting in genital herpes. Sometimes, HSV2 can also cause lesions around the mouth and face. Herpes is contagious and can be transmitted from person to person through any form of unprotected sex (oral, anal, or vaginal).
Herpes outbreaks typically begin with pain, tenderness, or itching in the genital area. Bumps and blisters may appear on the vagina, penis, scrotum, anus, thigh, or buttocks. Blisters soon open to form painful sores that can last up to 3 weeks. Other symptoms may include: pain or a burning sensation during urination; muscle aches; and tender, swollen glands in the groin area.
After someone is initially infected, the virus can lie dormant without causing any symptoms. But it can reactivate later, typically after some sort of stress like a cold, an infection, hormonal changes, or menstrual periods. Outbreaks are often treated with antiviral medication. For people who know they have the virus, suppressive therapy can prevent or decrease the number of outbreaks and lessen the chance the virus will be passed to another person during sex.
There is no cure for HSV2. Once someone has been infected with the virus, it stays in the body. Medications can ease the discomfort of outbreaks and limit or sometimes prevent them, but it's better to prevent a herpes infection altogether by taking precautions against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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